'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY AND THE ART OF FICTION
Journalistic integrity has been in the news a lot later. It seems there is a crisis of confidence in journalism these days. Many Americans no longer trust that journalists are telling the truth anymore.
On the other hand, how do we know journalistic integrity is truly a major issue right now? The only people telling us that journalism is in crisis are journalists, and who can trust them anyhow? Maybe they’re just making up this story to sell more newspapers.
Journalistic integrity is a hot topic right now because of two sensational events: journalist Armstrong Williams was exposed recently as greedy and unethical for taking huge sums of cash from the government to promote certain policies in his opinion columns. And journalist Dan Rather was exposed recently as a mutant space alien sent to this planet to infiltrate the broadcast media industry.
No, I’m just kidding. Dan was actually sent to infiltrate the steel industry, but his space ship landed in New York instead of Pittsburgh.
Anyway, it was discovered that Mr. Rather’s investigative report last summer criticizing President Bush’s military service in the early 1970s was based on phony documents. Within two seconds of displaying the documents on TV, every 16-year-old in America said, “Hey, that was created using Microsoft Word. That couldn’t have been written in the early 1970s because back then they not only didn’t have Microsoft-based computers, they didn’t have electricity.”
No, I’m just kidding. We all know the average age of CBS News viewers is: deceased. There never has been and never will be an American 16-year-old who watches Dan Rather.
An independent panel was formed to investigate this journalistic scandal. (The panel was formed by CBS News, funded by CBS News, and charged with investigating CBS News, so again, that whole journalistic integrity thing is still kind of up in the air.) Even after the panel’s report concluded that Mr. Rather was guilty of “shoddy fact-checking,” “myopic zeal to be first with the story,” and “distracting viewers by having his alien antennae frequently pop up through his toupee while on the air,” Dan insisted that although the documents may be bogus, they are still accurate.
Combined with the sensational event of a couple years ago, the revelation that New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was basically making up all his stories—claiming he was interviewing people in, say, Chicago, when he was actually typing away on his laptop computer, all alone in his New York apartment watching Oprah and eating Hostess Fruit Pies—you can see why the field of journalism is in crisis.
The reason I mention this topic is the fact that my weekly column appears in a newspaper. As we all know, newspapers are a key source of news and information in America, and one of the Four Pillars of Journalism, along with television, radio, and Chinese restaurant fortune cookies.
Because my column appears in a newspaper, some people mistakenly believe I am a journalist, and therefore everything I write must be true. Well, let’s clear up that little misconception right now: I am not a journalist. I am in theory a humorist. (I am required by law to include the words “in theory” to differentiate myself from other humorists who are actually humorous.)
In fact, now that I think about it, pretty much everything I’ve written during the past four years has been either exaggerated or completely fabricated—except, of course, the claim that Dan Rather is a space alien.
I find that my kind of writing is much more convenient than real journalism. Instead of worrying about time-consuming things such as facts and accurate quotations, I can just type away on my laptop computer, all alone in my basement office watching Oprah and eating Hostess Fruit Pies.
But maybe I should give real journalism a shot. If the government wants to discuss giving me huge sums of cash to promote certain policies in my column, I’m all ears—and no antennae.
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